Nearly 20 years ago I began responding to design competition calls for entries and book publisher requests for submissions with the entry of client work. Early on I saw awards and inclusion in books as much more than an ego booster. Instead, positive results of such opportunities were a valid marketing and promotion tool for my business. Since then, my work has garnered over 600 regional, local and international design awards.
My designs appear in over 130 books from publishers around the world. The majority of potential clients coming my way begin our interaction with comments such as “I was at my local bookstore and saw some examples of your design work in a book...” In addition, relationships have developed with writers, editors and publishers. When they need illustrative elements for books, I am often contacted as a result of past positive experiences to submit work for inclusion in articles or books. I’ve also been asked to judge design competitions, or book submissions, many times in the last two decades.
When writing my first book, The Savvy Designer’s Guide to Success, I crossed over to the other side and became the person requesting design submissions to illustrate a book. I quickly learned the challenges of compiling the images I desired, obtaining the proper digital files for quality reproduction, collecting the descriptions and credits for specific projects and getting the permission forms required by my publisher, HOW Books.
My frustrations were multiplied in writing Identity Crisis!: 50 redesigns that transformed stale identities into successful brands - a volume greater in scope, with many more contributors from around the globe, and hundreds of graphic and photo images. I am now in the midst of writing my third book, Logo Type: 200 Best Typographic Logos from Around the World Explained which has involved over 200 submitting designers or firms and thousands of contributed images. Some days, while digging through the numerous submissions, I find myself getting really cranky and bitchy.
A few years ago, at a design conference, another author and I were lamenting about the issues associated with writing and coordinating a book before the finished manuscript is shipped off to a publisher. Our gripes and pet peeves were remarkably similar. As our conversation came to an end, he said, “If I ever even consider writing another book please slap me silly.” I gave him similar permission. Of course, he just completed his third book, and I am working on my second, since having that particular discussion.
The work on my current book got me thinking. What advice would I share with other designers in regards to responding to competition calls for entries and book submission requests?
The following is Part One of my observations, tips and tricks on the issue:
Read the call for entries or book submission request: Seriously. Read the call for entries or book submission request thoroughly and carefully. Pay attention to the details from the entity conducting the design competition or writing/publishing the book. Failure to follow the specific documented requests could result in your work being immediately disqualified from consideration.
Evaluate what competitions and book submissions will best serve the needs of you or your firm: What do you, as a designer hope to achieve by responding to a call for entries or request to submit designs for possible inclusion in a book? An ego boost? Validation from your design or industry-specific peers? A happy client? Marketing and promotion of your work? The opportunity to “toot” your own horn with the possible results? A trophy and certificate wall in your studio?
My purpose for entering design competitions, and submitting my work for possible inclusion in books, is to make use of the results for the marketing and promotion of my design efforts. With a focus on identity design, I tend to target competitions and publisher requests that will give the greatest exposure to logo design, corporate identity and branding. Logo-specific competitions and books are always a first priority. Requests for complete identity programs are a close second. Calls for entries focusing on stationery package and business card design follow. Re-evaluations do result in changing priorities over time. For example, my logo designs were selected for inclusion in Print’s Regional Design Annual for many years. When Print opted to exhibit many fewer logos in the annual, I lost interest in entering the competition as a possible showcase for my identity design work.
An added bonus in the case of some competitions, or book submission requests, is the future release of compilation volumes by the publisher. For sometime Rockport Publishers has increased the exposure of a designers’ work with The Best of the Best of... books highlighting brochure, letterhead and logo design. LogoLounge is now doing the same with the new Master Library series. It’s great to discover your work will be featured in an upcoming book – with no additional effort on the part as the original submitter.
Create a budget for entry fees and potential publication fees: Entering design competitions can be an expensive venture. From my earliest submissions, I created a budget for entry fees I was willing to pay – and considered that expenditure a major portion of what I would spend on marketing in any given year. I sought out competitions that had a cap on entry fees after a given number of entries, offered an additional cap on any publication or “hanging” fees (which just annoy the hell out of me), charged no additional fees beyond entry fees, or resulted in a book being published. The Big Book of Logos series, LogoLounge, the former American Corporate Identity competitions, the Creativity Awards, and a few others fit into the guidelines I established for my business.
I’ve always appreciated the fact that the Summit International Awards– already directed at smaller firms – is willing to offer an added discount to one-person studios. This year, the American Advertising and Graphic Design Awards offered a free pro bono project entry with a paid entry fee in another category. With their American Graphic Design Awards the trade publication GDUSA has offered discounted entry fees to previous submitters and winners. Still, having won 20 American Graphic Design Awards over the years, I have yet to pay what I feel are outrageous publication fees to have my work appear in the magazine. As a one-person studio, I simply can’t justify the expense - especially when some of the awards have been for pro bono logo design projects.
Personally, I prefer to submit my work to book producers such as the widely promoted efforts of Rockport Publishers, Rotovision (UK), Index Book (Spain) and zeixs (Germany) - which have no entry fees and incredible reach with their products. HOW Books and PIE Books (Japan) are increasingly promoting future books with no fees for submissions. Inclusion in the books of all of these publishers exposes a designer’s work to an international audience of potential clients.
I think it’s unfortunate the the American Graphic Design and Advertising Awards (formerly American Corporate Identity) recently announced that winning entries of the most recent competition will not be published in a book. To be honest, had I been aware of this prior to the competition deadline, I probably would not have submitted designs. I also noticed that for a specific submission request, although an entry fee is not necessary, Crescent Hill Books is now requiring a $25 fee ($350 for a selected case study) for publication in the future book release. I do understand the challenges of publishing these days, but such changes will cause me to have second thoughts about the book submission requests of those two entities in the future.
Enter what you consider to be your best and most representative work: When giving designers advice about what to include in their portfolios, I always say “only include what you feel is your best work.” The same goes for considering one’s own work for possible competition entry or book submission. Competitions and publications are an opportunity to present to the world what you do best. Don’t be tempted to submit what you may consider mediocre work due to an entry fee price break at, let’s say, 15 entries. If you have 10 kick-ass design projects to contribute; only submit the ten pieces. It’s almost a given that, if you present work of which you are not particularly proud, the work will be selected for recognition or publication.
Part Two of this article will go into some of the specifics of submitting design work for competition or book publishing review.
Some additional resources on this topic:
© 2010 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives.